Note from Abraham Lincoln dated May 18, 1864.
Lincoln’s short note reads in full: “I have issued no proclamations lately. I signed a very modest paper last night for the Sec of War, about drafting 300,000 – in July as I remember; but the document now rampant at New York is a forgery.”
On the day the note was written, the New York World newspaper and New York Journal of Commerce unknowingly published false information stating that President Abraham Lincoln intended to conscript 400,000 men. Obtained through a forged dispatch believed to have come from the Associated Press, the news shocked New Yorkers who feared a repeat of the devastating Draft Riots of less than a year before. Secretary of State William Seward and President Lincoln responded by telegraph that the story was a hoax.
An investigation revealed the deception was the work of Joseph Howard, Jr., a journalist who believed his fraud would destabilize the financial market and cause the price of gold to increase, allowing him to sell gold he had purchased for a tidy profit. The revelation of his deception led to Howard’s arrest and imprisonment at Fort Lafayette until August 23, 1864.
Below the note is an additional notation in an unknown hand that reads, “The above note was written on the back of a telegram addressed to Secretary Chase asking whether the Proclamation which appeared in certain N.Y. papers on the 18th of June was or was not genuine. J.W.J.”